Attractive Garden Plants that Tolerate Shade

Attractive Garden Plants that Tolerate Shade

Looking for a way to spruce up your garden this fall? There are lots of plants to choose from, including plants that are suitable for shaded gardens and yards. Such plants are often a lovely choice for lining your walkway or serving as border plants in your yard. No matter what your vision is for your outdoor space, it may be easier than you think to find a shade-tolerant plant or two that will make it easier to meet your decorative landscaping goals. Here are some suggestions of beautiful garden plants that thrive in the shade.

Flowering Dogwood

These trees grow best in US zones 5 through 8 and have beautiful blooms that show themselves in the spring. They can thrive in the shade, so they don’t need much sun for the flowers to bloom. The flowering dogwood can grow to be between 20 and 25 feet tall and between 12 and 15 feet wide. If you’re using the flowering dogwood as a decorative plant, you may want to plant the Cherokee Chief cultivar, which has branches that grow horizontally. This variation of the tree shows off red blooms during the spring that turn bronze in the fall. There are also flowering dogwood varieties that have pink or white blooms.

Red Osier/Red Twig Dogwood

If you’re looking for a shrub or border plant that can withstand shade, the red osier is a great choice that has white blooms in the spring. After the flowers are no longer blooming, the shrub will produce white berries. These natural features are especially stunning because they contrast well with the deep red color of the shrub’s bark. The border plants grow to be around 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide. While these shrubs can grow just fine in shade, the red hue will intensify if you give them a little sun. These dogwood varieties grow best in US zones 3 through 8.


Yew are evergreen shrubs that grow well in the shade. The plants can also grow into trees depending on how you tend to them and the type of yew you’re growing. Yews have short, flat needles that are dark green on top and light green on the bottom. They grow rather slowly, so they can be left unattended for long periods of time and can be pruned into a hedge. Just be aware that hybrids of the Taxus x media ‘Wardii’ group of yews are highly toxic. These plants are a mixture of European and Japanese yews, and every part is poisonous except for the berries. However, the berries are grown from the seed of the plant, so the berries are not safe to consume. Small children and pets should be kept away from this plant, so this variation of yew is best if you have older children and if you don’t have pets.

Impatiens and Bleeding Hearts

These plants are popular annual flowers in the United States and bloom continually, even in shady conditions. Impatiens can grow anywhere from 6 to 24 inches tall depending on plant variety; they bloom in shades of pink, purple, red, orange and white.

In addition to impatiens, you can add shade-tolerant bleeding hearts to your garden design. The Dutchman’s breeches and fringed bleeding hearts are particularly appealing in a garden and they bloom in both stark white and pastel shades. These flowers are also tolerant of the cold if they are grown in US zone 3. Bleeding hearts are perennial flowers that grow between 6 and 12 inches tall and wide.

Climbing Hydrangea and Vinca

These plants are actually vines that can grow around a garden or on a fence to make your yard space more attractive. The vinca minor vine is another name for the periwinkle flower, a ground cover that serves as a great choice for lawns that can’t consistently grow grass because of the shade.  The blooms can get up to 6 inches tall, but the stems can spread up to 18 inches. These flowers grow well in hardiness zones 4-8. Periwinkle flowers mainly bloom in the spring but may present a few more flowers in the summer as well. The plant can be pretty invasive, though, so if you want a ground cover that is a little less invasive, hosta plants are a good idea.

Climbing hydrangea is great if you’re looking for a versatile plant that grows nicely in the shade. It can grow on posts and fences but can also be used as a ground cover. The hydrangea also looks nice against the walls of houses and it thrives best in zones 4, 5, 6, and 7.

Bee Balm

 Bee balm is native to North America and does very well in highly wooded areas. The plant is also called the Monarda and is very appealing to animals that can help your garden thrive, such as hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. The bloom is open, and its shape is similar to a daisy, with tube-shaped petals in hues like white, pink, red and purple. Bee balm flowers are perennial and come back every year to make your garden colorful and inviting. Most types of bee balm are between 2.5 and 4 feet in height, or you can choose dwarf varieties that are no more than 10 inches tall.

It’s best to grow bee balm in moist soil that is filled with nutrients from a multi-purpose fertilizer. The flowers grow nicely in shade and in areas where the summer gets very hot but can also grow without shade during cooler summers. Look for the areas of your yard that could use a pop of color, even if these areas don’t get much sun; these are likely the perfect spots for bee balm. To ensure that the plant continues to produce beautiful flowers, remember to pick the flowers, take off parts that are damaged or deadhead the blooms often.


These beautiful flowers are tall and have a distinguished look about them. If you have an elaborate garden and want to include flowers that are not necessarily common in landscape design, the foxglove is an ideal choice. The stems of the flowers can grow up to 6 feet, depending on the type of foxglove you plant. The tallest types of foxgloves are the rusty variety, which reach 6 feet and sometimes need to be staked. Hybrid variations usually only grow to about 3 feet and common foxglove can be around 4 feet, which makes it a nice border for the garden.

This flower grows in shades of purple, pink, yellow, white, red and purple and you can grow the flowers in full shade. Foxglove will also thrive in partial shade as well as full sun, depending on how warm the summers are where you live. Foxgloves are ideally grown in hardiness zones 4 through 10. If you’re growing the flowers in a hotter area of the country, try to give the blooms midday shade to help the flowers stay healthy.

Foxglove flowers thrive best in soil that has been well-drained, but you will also have to keep the soil moist. If you want the flowers to continue growing each year (they are short-lived perennials), make sure that the soil is at a balanced moisture level and doesn’t become too soggy or to dry.